The sermon illustration maybe the one thing that most congregants will remember from the sermon you preached.
What is a sermon illustration?
Preaching that fully develops certain ideas or points within the sermon, use illustrations as means to draw or to create a picture which serves to make clear the idea under development.
The illustration is an analogy of the idea and character of the content. Its purpose is to make clear foregoing information.
An illustration can be in the form of a story like those frequently recorded in New Testament parables. Interpretation of those “parables” of Jesus present models of behavior.
For example, narratives in which “the moral lies in the narrative itself” or narratives like “the good Samaritan, the rich fool, the rich man and Lazarus and the Pharisee and the publicans” where the moral lies outside the story is a true parable.
Traditionally, illustrations are considered as analogies that can make plain parts of our message that is obscure.
Sometimes they are viewed as proof and support of statements made in the sermon.
The point here is that they function to make our messages clear and help to convince the dubious.
Illustrations are used when making a point in a sermon. Examples are different from illustrations in that there may be more than one example, whereas there ought to be only one illustration for each point.
Although congregations may have different kinds of people in them—young and old, men and women, day labors, technicians, lawyers or congressmen and the like--- using one illustration is sufficient to make a point.
Using more than one illustration will weaken and confuse the meaning of the point.
An illustration should fit the thought of the point being made. It should be a clear analogy to the point being made.
It is better to have no illustration than to have one that is off-target or just close to the point being made.
Your illustration should relate to the strength of the idea you want to bring home.
Sometimes preachers try to illustrate every point---this weakens the power to communicate the image you are trying to bring together---only illustrate major, important points not subordinate notions and your point will have balance.
Illustrations must relate to the content of the point. What I mean is that if the point being made is negative, then the illustration must be in the same character of the idea.
Remember that once made it cannot be turned around or reversed. Our rule is that we line up positive with positive and negative with negative, points and illustrations.
How long should the illustration be?
Illustrations that are longer than five or six sentences are on the border of becoming a ‘Large’ or ‘Long’ illustration.
When they are long several problems make them difficult: sometimes they are used to enhance an 'emotional climax’, they are much less effective in illustrating; long illustrations tend to be detached from the content thus making them self-defeating.
Illustrations shorter (five or six sentences) are much more effective because it’s easier to stay focused on illustrating the content.
Remember, our general rule is that a shorter illustration will have greater force in developing meaning than a long elaborate illustration.